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September 2012

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cover story By CHRISTINE BUNISH Dog days S Editing FX Network's Wilfred. ANTA MONICA — The hit FX comedy series Wilfred, the network's highest- ranking debut sitcom last year, tells the unusual tale of Ryan Newman (Elijah Wood), who is suicidal until his neighbor asks him to look after her dog, Wilfred. Ryan — and viewers — see Wilfred as an Australian man (series co-creator Jason Gann) in a dog suit; everyone else sees Wilfred as a normal dog. Manipulative and prone to cer- tain unhealthy vices (drinking, smoking, being naughty with stuffed toys), Wilfred neverthe- less becomes something of a mentor to Ryan, who begins to live life on his own terms. The second season of Wilfred aired this summer. Richie Edelson cut both seasons of Wilfred from production offices in Santa Monica, shar- ing Season One editing duties with Christian Hoffman and Season Two with Grady Cooper. The editors worked closely with showrunner David Zuckerman and executive producer Randall Einhorn, who directed most of Season One and all of Season Two's 13 episodes. Their main directive for every show: that viewers see everything from Ryan's perspective. "It's imperative to keep that in mind at every stage of the process — writing, shooting, editing," says Edelson. "The story is told from Ryan's point of view: He's the only one who sees Wilfred as a man in a dog suit. How to sell because they don't have any visual cues to support the fact they're seeing just a normal dog. You don't want to have a shot of a guest star looking at the dog talking." Despite those conceptual constraints Edel- son says he has "a lot of free rein. There are a lot of different rhythms and pacing to play with, a lot of different directions to take things to shape Ryan's experience." Wilfred shot on Canon EOS 5D and 7D cameras for Season One and the first half of Season Two. After hiatus, acquisition switched to Nikon D800 DSLRs. "Randall [Einhorn] and DP Brad Lipson shoot with three cameras at all times so there's a lot of coverage," Edelson says. "We're so fortunate to have the cast we do; Elijah and Jason are so good together, and Randall gets a lot of two-shots of them from the side. A lot of times you just want their performances to play out in a natural way. Randall also shoots a lot of dirty over-the-shoulder coverage so each character is in the frame. That keeps Ryan and Wilfred connected, and it gives a more naturalistic feel to the editing process — it's easy to connect the geography of the scene and follow the emotional flow of the scene. "In the one-shot 'couch beats' in Ryan's basement, which act like tags to each episode, the performances of Elijah and Jason are so on and MTV's The Hard Times of RJ Berger, and Cooper cut on Avid Media Composer 5.5. The cameras' memory cards are transcoded by Red Sky Pictures, then Avid XML files are ingested into the Media Composers where the editors do a low-resolution offline. Their assis- tants conform the show at DNx115 resolution. The second half of this season was shot with three Nikon D800 DSLR cameras. Color timing is handled by HTV Illuminate; final color tends to be a matter of enhancing the look established on set and finding the tones to reflect the material. "There's no one color style," says Edelson. "It depends on the scene, such as warm and rich tones for exterior footage during a psychedelic trip." The editors use the Avid ScriptSync software option, which Edelson calls "a real time saver. I watch all the footage anyway, but in the later stages of the game rather than search for a line I can just click and get all the takes I need. Script- Sync saves a ton of time on my end." Due to scheduling issues Edelson says Richie Edelson has worked on both seasons of Wilfred. He uses Avid Media Composer 5.5. Ryan's experience is decided mostly during shooting — does this shot or angle reflect what Ryan would have seen? But in editorial we also have to be concerned about whether shots play into the mythology of the show." For example, Edelson needs to keep an eye on "how the other actors react to Wilfred 12 Post • September 2012 that you don't want to cut away from them unless there's a reason to do so," he adds. EDITING & POST Edelson, who previously cut reality-based shows such as The Osbournes, Top Chef and Project Runway, as well as episodes of The Office Season Two found them "crossboarding mul- tiple episodes at a time, so we would get dailies from three or four different episodes each week. That meant we wouldn't have a rough cut for weeks due to waiting for pro- duction to shoot remaining scenes. It was an interesting way to solve scheduling problems but made it challenging to absorb the mate- rial as a whole." Season Two of Wilfred featured more VFX shots than the show's debut season, which was shot largely on location. Now green- screens behind the doors and windows on the set are composited with background plates actually shot from the house used in Season One. Other VFX shots include head replacement to create a preferred take; removing frames from a dream sequence to give a jumpy, unsettling feeling (Edelson accomplished that in-house); a split screen for a no-animals-were-harmed shot of Dober- continued on page 47

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